It's All About the FoodChristmas Baking with SusieJ

2016 Archives

Keep white supremacists out of our government

Letter I e-mailed to my senators and representative tonight. If you're just here for the cookies, sorry, I will not sit silently.

I am a lifelong Pennsylvania resident and a voter in Wyncote, 19095. My mother's parents came to this country in the 1920s from the Stuttgart region of Germany, and became naturalized citizens by the 1930s. They both left large families of sisters, brothers and cousins behind in Germany, families we still see regularly. I have often wondered how my great aunts and uncles could live through and fight and die for the Third Reich as if rounding up their fellow citizens were normal, just as I have wondered how my parents' generation could watch the Civil Rights Movement on television and not feel compelled to some action.

Clearly, when the challenge came, I told myself, I would be different.

And so I say: NOT IN MY NAME.

I will not pretend it is normal or acceptable for the president to accept white supremacist supporters and appoint white supremacists like Stephen Bannon to the government. I will not give them the comfortable name of "alt-right"; they are neo-Nazis, short and simple.

It is not acceptable to register Muslims like we did the Japanese during World War II. It is not acceptable to apply a religious test to anyone seeking a life here. The First Amendment protects expression of all religions, no matter our own personal prejudices.

In 20 or 30 years when history writes the Trump presidency as one of the darkest periods of American history, I want to know I was on the right side of history, doing everything I could to protect my fellow people -- citizen or not, here or abroad. I hope I can say my elected representatives will be standing there with me.

Thank you,
Susan J. Talbutt

Gingerbread K-9 for LI Who

The recipe: Renate's Pfefferkuchen

Attending the Long Island Doctor Who convention in mid-November has been our family vacation since it's first convening in 2013. We've watched it expand from not quite two days of discussions and interviews in three tracks to nearly three days in five tracks. When organizers asked for volunteers for a long list of fan panels, I jumped at the chance to discuss "Cooking as an Expression of Fandom" and offered to bake and assemble a gingerbread version of K-9, the iconic robot dog from the original series with occasional appearances in the new.

Currently, you can see the photos of baking, assembling, reassmbling, and final assembly on my Mobypic account.

Spring brunch for six to eight

That first brunch of late spring and early summer somehow tastes better than any other meal of the season. This year my sister and stepmother joined us just as the weather went from a lovely preview of summer to a flashback to early spring.


The menu has everything I look for in a brunch: something baked, fruit, a vegetable — preferably asparagus, a protein, caffeinated drinks, and bubbly. It feels a bit fancy, but is not stressful to prepare.

Mimosas are the preferred brunch drink here because I prefer both OJ and bubbly to tomato juice and vodka; finishing the bubble while washing dishes my time-honored wind-down after everyone has left.. The asparagus tart recipe shows up on every spring brunch menu I make. It's easy to assemble, looks elegant, it gets a vegetable onto the menu, and can be serve warm or room temperature, as finger food or eaten with a knife and fork. The scones are the same ones I make for weekend breakfasts. For Philly, grits are a bit "exotic," like scrapple might be elsewhere in the country.

Day or night before

Always prep as much as you can the day or night before.

For the grits: pre-measure the cup of grits and three cups of water.

Roast the peppers: Set the oven to broil. Cut each pepper into thirds from top to bottom so that the sides are fairly flat. Remove stem and seed. Tear off a piece of tinfoil wider than the pepper pieces laid out side to side with enough on either side to fold up. Lay the foil on a baking sheet and the peppers in the foil and slide under the broiler. I usually need to get the peppers right under the broiler until they are touching or nearly so. Broil for five minutes.

Prep the remaining peppers so that you can quickly rotate them into and out of the oven.

After broiling for five minutes, the entire skin should be blackened. Fold the foil over the peppers and create an air tight seal so that the peppers can steam for another ten minutes.

Open the foil, peel off the blackened skin. Store in an airtight container.

Scones: Honestly, I'd hoped to bake them the night before, but ... do you really want to hear about my health problems? No? I don't either.

Mix the dry ingredients. Mix the wet ingredients in a small bowl that you can seal. Chop the ginger, keep separate. This is a good stopping point, especially if your butter is frozen, or you can cut in the butter, mix everthing in, roll out and cut the scones, place onto a baking sheet and pop into the fridge until the next day.

Asparagus tart: It's served at room temperature and can be baked ahead and covered, but it really can't be pre-assembled like the scones. You can grate the cheese and cut the woody stems off the asparagus. In the linked recipe Martha is peeling her asparagus, and it's very nice that she (or her staff) has the time for that. No peeling in this house.

Eggs: Make sure the salmon is defrosted. Cut salmon into bite-sized pieces. Snip the chives that grow organically in your front garden because nothing bothers the dang things.

Other: The usual, set the table, get out the serving dishes, put out some candles. Fill the coffee maker and the tea kettle. Put the bubbly in the fridge.

The day of

Always make a schedule, broken down into 10 or 15-minute intervals. What needs to happen next? Look! There it is! Include any cleaning you might need to do. For big events like Thanksgiving, we will have a schedule for every teen or adult in the house. Total the cooking times (the tart has two!), (over)estimate the remaining prep times, and then work back from the guests' arrival time.

My schedule for everyone arriving at 1:

9:00Clean house like mad people because it's too cold to be outside and you mowed the lawn instead of cleaning.
11:30Preheat oven to 400F for tart, pulse peppers in the food processor
11:45Roll out puff pastry and pre-bake 15 mins
12:00Assemble tart and bake 25 mins
12:15Fry garlic for grits
12:20Bring grits to a boil, reduce heat, simmer 28 minutes
12:25Tart out of the oven and onto cutting board; increase oven temp to 425F; form scones
12:40Scones into oven for 14 minutes (this is my time)
12:45Start tea and coffee, put butter on table to soften get out OJ and bubbly
12:50Grits off the stove, stir in chopped peppers
12:55Scones out of the oven, into basket
1:00Jorj starts eggs, everything onto the table


Roasted pepper grits

2 red or yellow peppers, roasted
2 Tbs oil or butter
1 clove garlic
1 c grits
3 c water
3/4 tsp salt
ground pepper

Roast peppers (see above). Pulse in food processor until mostly pureed, but some pepper pieces remain.

In a 2-quart saucepot, heat oil over medium high heat. Saute garlic until golden and fragrant, no more than a minute.

Pour in water, salt and grits. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook 28 minutes.

Remove from heat, stir in roasted pepper puree. Adjust seasoning.

If you want creamy grits, add butter.

Jorj's scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, cream cheese and chives

1 dozen eggs
6 ounces smoked salmon
4 ounce cream cheese
snipped chives
salt and pepper to taste

Cut salmon into bite-sized pieces. Cut cream cheese into 16 cubes.

For this many eggs, a 12" frying pan is best. Bring the pan to heat over medium high heat. If the pan is still cold at the edges, this won't work. Add two tablespoons butter or oil; swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Pour in eggs, stir. Add cream cheese cubes, stir. Add salmon pieces, stir. Add chives and pepper to taste, stir. Continue stirring until eggs are still a bit runny (not much!) and transer into a serving bowl. Overall this should take about five minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust. Sprinkle with a bit more chive on top. Eggs will continue to firm up.


Ahh, the meringue. Gluten and dairy free without having to substitute ingredients. Dead simple once you've mastered slowly adding sugar to egg whites while beating on high speed. You can bake in a super low oven for 25 minutes or a low oven for 20 minutes or turn the oven off and take the cookies out the next morning. It's possible the overnight baking method will not be acceptable to any children in your household.

[A variety of meringue cookies; copyright 2016, Susan J. Talbutt, all rights reserved]

Basic meringue

Preheat your oven to 275 to 325 degrees.

Meringue is a ratio of sugar and egg whites. For 1 egg white, 1/4 to 1/3 c of sugar (50 to 67 g). I like to add 1/8 tsp of cream of tarter to make the proteins a bit more springy. You can also add a pinch of salt, or 1/4 tsp of vanilla.

Separate the eggs. Gently crack the equator or midriff of the egg with a butter knife or against the rim of a teacup. Pull the shell into two hemispherical halves, and allow the white to drip into the cup, while keeping the yolk in one half. Pass the yolk to the other half. Pass back to the first half if there is still a lot of white clinging to the yolk. Stop passing if the yolk looks like it's about the break! Drop the yolk into a small, freezable plastic container. Pour the white from the cup into the large mixing bowl you'll be beating the whites in. If the yolk does break and drip into the white, drop the remaining yolk into the cup with already contaminated white, and pour into an empty, small, freezable container; use the yolk for pancakes or scones the next morning. When you are done, label the small containers and freeze immediately.

Start the mixer on low speed. Add the cream of tartar if using. As the whites start to foam, increase the mixer speed to medium for a minute or two, then to medium high or high. The more whites you are whipping, the lower the top mixer speed so as not to strain the motor. When the whites are firm, add a tablespoon or two of sugar while continuing to beat the whites, and then wait. Put the yolks into the freezer, wipe down the counters, load the dishwasher, something to kill about 30 seconds. Or more. The point is not to rush. Add a bit more sugar. Distract yourself again; meringues are great for getting the kitchen cleaned while working. Continue adding sugar and whipping with a noticeable break before adding more sugar. When all the sugar is added, the whites should be glossy but not dry.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper, or Silpat or similar liners. You can drop the batter from a spoon to form a kiss shape, or use a pastry bag and star tip to pipe fancy shapes.

Bake until the meringe has dried out. For small cookies at 275 degrees, this can be 25 to 30 minutes; at 325 degrees it will take 15 to 20 minutes. Larger shapes will take longer to bake. I like my meringues crisp and dry, not chewy.


Yes, yes, the hot cookie now is the one-oh French macaron, made with almond flour, and everyone disses "grandmom's" coconut macaroons as being, what, stodgy? Well, let me tell you, macaroons were cool once and they'll be cool again, once the they get designated as "retro."

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Use 8 ounces of shredded coconut, preferably unsweetened, and 1 cup of sugar for 3 eggs. Break up any clumps in the coconut and fold in. Drop onto a cookie sheet into mounds about 1 inch in diameter, at least 1/2 inch apart. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, until just turning light golden brown on top. I like my macaroons crisp rather than chewy. Full recipe.

Forgotten cookies

My childhood favorite! As my best friend Donna said, how could you forget about these? The name comes from the baking directions: pop into the oven, turn it off, and forget about the cookies until morning. Unfortunately, if the oven cools too quickly, the cookies come out gummy. But delicious!

Two egg whites, 2/3 c sugar, once the whites are glossy fold in 6 ounces (half a bag) of chocolate chips. Just double the recipe so that you can use the whole bag. Drop from a spoon to make a kiss shape. Pop into a preheated 375 degree oven, turn off after five minutes, go to bed. Full recipe.


Wasps' nests. Who in their right mind names a cookie for a very nasty household pest? I put a pitchfork into a (very small) wasps' nest and the wasps were not pleased.

For 3 whites and 1 1/4 cup of sugar, fold in 4 1/2 ounces of ground unsweetened (or bittersweet) chocolate and 9 ounces of almonds coarsely chopped or slivered. Drop into mounds about 1 to 1 1/2 inches across; they will be misshapen blobs that look like paper wasps nests. Bake at 275 degrees for 25 minutes. Full recipe.


Bavarian kisses! We've had a lot of fun adding cinnamon (1 tsp), cayenne (1/4 tsp), cloves (1/4 tsp) and other spices along with the cocoa.

For 2 whites and 1/2 cup of sugar, fold in 2 ounces ground unsweetened (or bittersweet) chocolate, 1 tablespoon cocoa (Dutched or natural) and any of the spices listed above (or not). Bake 25 to 30 minutes in a 275 degree oven. Full recipe.

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